The FBI is investigating tattooed gangs of LA County Sheriff’s deputies and a suit filed by a former deputy includes allegations of gangs with matching tattoos controlling the Compton Station. Thus the idea that LASD gang tattoos may be subject to the California Public Records Act is in the air! So I thought that I would give you my amateurish and decidedly nonlawyerly take on it. The starting point for any such inquiry is the CPRA at §6253(a), where we read that:
Public records are open to inspection at all times during the office hours of the state or local agency and every person has a right to inspect any public record, except as hereafter provided. Any reasonably segregable portion of a record shall be available for inspection by any person requesting the record after deletion of the portions that are exempted by law.
This is very clear. If they’re public records they must be open to inspection unless they’re exempt. If Sheriff gang tattoos are public records, then we can look at them! So are they?
Continue reading Are Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy Gang Tattoos Public Records? — And Therefore Subject To The Public Records Act? — I Don’t See Why Not! — Although I’m Not A Lawyer And Could Easily Be Wrong — But I Could Easily Be Right!
There is a lot of interesting stuff in the Los Angeles City Charter! And I didn’t realize it before, but the same is true of the Los Angeles Administrative Code! It turns out that the LAAC includes a local version of the California Public Records Act. This differs here and there from State law, and some of the differences are really interesting.
Let’s take a look at LAAC §12.21. This is the local version of CPRA §6254, which is the main list of exemptions. The infamous §6254(f) is the so-called investigative exemption, which basically allows the cops to refuse to release any records which can properly be described as “investigatory or security files.” And the local LA version, found at LAAC §12.21(f), is roughly the same albeit localized.
With at one exceedingly important exception! But before that, some background! The LAPD Public Disorder Intelligence Division was established by Chief Edward Davis in 1970, apparently as a reaction to the Watts Uprising in 1965. The PDID infiltrated hundreds of progressive political groups and also spied on electeds from the Mayor to the City Council. According to historian Max Felker-Kanter:
The PDID operated as an updated Red Squad gathering “practically all” information on “potential threats” and storing as much information as possible. It was, in other words, a comprehensive surveillance program that significantly expanded the department’s intelligence operations.
Continue reading In 1983 Public Opposition To The LAPD Political Espionage Unit — Public Disorder Intelligence Division — Was Strong Enough That The Police Commission Dissolved It — And Then-CD5 Repster Zev Yaroslavsky — One Of The Politicians Spied On By LAPD — Sponsored An Ordinance Which Excluded PDID Intelligence Files From The Much-Hated Investigative Exemption — Which Means All Of Them Must Be Released On Request! — Unless They’re Exempt For Other Reasons Than Investigative — But Even More Interesting — Maybe One Of The Most Interesting Things About The Los Angeles Administrative Code — Is That Yaroslavsky Specifically Precluded LAPD From Making A Burdensomeness Exemption Claim — Which Says That In 1983 LAPD Was Making Exactly The Same Kinds Of Bogus Exemption Claims They Love So Much Now — But Not About These Spy Records!!
You want to know how angry the LAPD is at me? Well, they are so angry that Chief Michel Moore, who apparently reads my blog obsessively but fails to understand most of it, wrote me a really aggressive, really disrespectful letter about how freaking mean I am to everybody and they’re not going to work very hard on my requests for public records going forward. No, really, read the letter! Cut through all the nonsense in there and all it really says is that they’re going to continue not filling my requests and lying about the reasons. But of course they’re doing that anyway, so it’s not much of a threat.
But let’s talk about why Moore is so angry at me! Start with the quality of my requests, and remember, this is Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore speaking: you frequently submit CPRA requests to the Department that are complex, vague, and/or overbroad, which create considerable burdens for the Department, and which significantly constrain the ability of some of the Department’s staff to fulfill their other work responsibilities and efficiently serve other members of the public.
This is interesting, because much of what he says is wrong. Some of it’s actually incredibly deceptive. First of all, I never write vague requests. I just don’t. What would be the point? Second, my requests are not overbroad, a word which in any case does not have an objective meaning in relation to the CPRA. Finally, it’s possible that some of my requests are complex, although I doubt it. I can’t think of any that aren’t straightforward.
Continue reading Michel Moore Sent Me A Really Aggressive Letter — Saying That I Ask For Too Many Records — And They Can’t Understand My Requests — Because I Intentionally Make Them Impossible To Understand — And Moore Reads My Blog! — And Doesn’t Understand What He’s Reading! — Or Pretends Not To — And Throws My Own Words Back At Me — The Ones That Don’t Say What He Apparently Thinks Or Pretends To Think They Say —And Yet In 2012 When Some USC Prof Asked LAPD For 762,000 Pages — Yes — You Read That Right — LAPD Was All Like Sure Thing Herr Doctor Professor! — Is 6,000 Pages A Week OK With You Good Sir? — And A Quick Calculation Reveals That All My Requests To The City Probably Don’t Total This Much — And I Don’t Work At USC — So No Records For Me!
Starting in 2018 gangs of astonishingly unhinged and utterly psychopathic housedwellers and some owners of commercial property began installing anti-homeless planters illegally on the streets of Los Angeles, aided, abetted, and assisted in their outlawry by City Council offices and LAPD officers. By April 2019 I had learned that not only were the planters illegal but that the City requires permits for placing structures or large objects on public sidewalks, none of which had been issued for these planters. So, via the California Public Records Act, I began asking for records.
In particular I asked for emails between BSS investigators and various CD11 staff. Later I also asked for copies of all citations issued by BSS from January 1, 2016 on for unpermitted planters and other structures placed on sidewalks. And after the usual months-long fruitless exchange of emails between me and BSS investigator Temo Llanes, filled with lies, errors, deceptions, and broken promises, the City of LA stopped responding to me at all. Hence the suit. Which you can get a copy of here if you are interested and there’s a transcription below. Stay, of course, tuned for more info!
Continue reading I Have Been Forced Yet Again To File A Petition Against The City Of Los Angeles To Enforce The California Public Records Act — The Bureau Of Street Services Refuses To Release Emails About Those Illegal Anti-Homeless Planters — Which I Have Been Waiting On For Well Over A Year
About two months ago, on May 7, 2020, the incomparable Lexis-Olivier Ray alerted me to the fact that, from his putatively safe haven in Simi Valley, Los Angeles Police Department Commander Timothy Scott Harrelson had just tweeted triumphantly about an LAPD raid on a “luxury apartment” Downtown due to “illegal cannabis sales.” But maybe you heard that cannabis is now legal in California? So this is essentially an arrest for tax evasion. Which is not something that ought to be at the top of any law enforcement priority list in the middle of a pandemic, right?
So I thought I’d look into the circumstances, and how better to do that than using the California Public Records Act?! There’s a problem, though, and that is the sad but true fact that the Los Angeles Police Department has completely stopped responding to my requests. When they first stopped I invented a few pseudonyms to make requests under, and this worked for a while. But then I started to file lawsuits over some of my pseudonymous requests so they caught on. Soon, I believe, they started tracking my pseudonyms as they identified them and then refusing to respond to those requests.
They are pretty prompt when the LA Times makes a request, though, which is part of the reason I think they’re singling out my requests for inaction. But this matter seemed important. Not only important enough for a new pseudonym, but for an actual backstory! And given LAPD’s responsiveness to the Times I thought of being a reporter. And from a sympathetic-sounding news outlet. And for a more convincing, at least superficially so, email address than the usual email@example.com. So I bought bluelinenews.org, fired up the random name generator and, using its suggestion, Rose Olsen, on May 9, 2020 I filed a CPRA request at lacity.nextrequest.com:
Continue reading It Took Me Two Months To Get Even A Minimal Amount Of The Story Behind A May 7 Copaganda Tweet From LAPD Central Division Supreme Commander Timothy Scott Harrelson — With A Public Records Act Request That I Filed Pretending To Be A Reporter At Blue Line News — Which I Made Up And Bought A Domain For To Use For Email — And — Even Though Obvious — The Ploy Worked Briefly In That Commander Harrelson Apparently Told LAPD Discovery Staff That He Was Going To Call Me — Me Being The Made Up Reporter Rose Olsen From Blue Line News — But Then He Didn’t Call — And LAPD Apparently Caught On To The Ruse — But I Did At Least Learn The Names Of The Arrested People — And The Location Of The Arrests — All Of Which Turns Out To Be Less Interesting Than The Process — Which Is Just How It Goes Sometimes
By now the whole world knows that John Lee, Los Angeles City Councilmember for District 12, formerly chief of staff to now-indicted former CD12 rep Mitch Englander, accompanied his boss to Las Vegas in June of 2017 to be plied with liquor, money, and sex in exchange for the usual list of favors to real estate developers. And Lee, known as City Staffer B in the indictments issued so far, admits going on the trip but denies receiving anything untoward or engaging in suspect or illegal activities.
And even though Englander’s indictment doesn’t mention anything leading up to that June 2017 trip, it’s clear that he and surely also John Lee had to have been conspiring with the developer for a while. Without a lot of prior discussion and understandings how would these conspirators have trusted one another enough to offer and accept such blatantly corrupt incentives? The indictment refers repeatedly to text messages between Englander, Lee, and the corrupt developers, so at least some of the pre-Vegas communication probably took place via cell phone.
And the City issues cell phones to Councilmembers and selected staff. While most criminals can probably understand that it’s a bad idea to arrange crimes on your work phone, it’s not impossible that Lee didn’t realize this at first. Regardless of the wily criminal tendencies of these political thugs they’re not bright people or at least have astonishingly poor impulse control. So perhaps early on Lee did use his work phone to communicate with his co-conspirators? And maybe at some point he realized that he might be leaving evidence by doing so? Which is speculation, of course.
But speculation or not it would certainly explain the highly suspicious fact that in January 2017 Lee asked his aide Brandy Turnbow if it were possible to get detailed billing records for his work phone from Verizon. By that time he’d worked for the City of Los Angeles for more than 20 years and yet the question hadn’t come up for him before his boss was running a criminal conspiracy out of City Hall. So Turnbow emailed Matthew Webster of Verizon asking him about it. And after a lot of tedious discussion he sent her the information she requested as an email attachment.
Which was tremendously good luck, because of course City emails and their attachments are public records. Which is how I laid hands on one of the most remarkable documents I’ve had the good fortune to receive during my long career of requesting public records. This is a detailed 300+ page call-by-call log of CD12 work phone activity from October 2016 through January 2017. It has all of Mitch Englander’s work phone calls, all of John Lee’s, and also other staffers. It includes not only the number called but the location of the caller’s phone when the call was made.
Continue reading In January 2017 — When The Mitch Englander CD12 Crime Conspiracy Must Already Have Been Busily Whirring Away — City Staffer B — Which Is To Say John Lee — Asked His Assistant Brandy Turnbow To Get A Copy Of His Detailed Phone Log From Verizon — Could He Have Been Using His Work Phone To Do Crimes? — Worried About What Lurid Or Incriminating Information He’d Spilled? — And Turnbow Did Get Them From Verizon — Via Email! — Which Is How I Came To Have Copies Of John Lee’s Phone Logs! — And Mitch Englander’s! — For November And December 2016 — Including Number Called And Location Of Lee/Englander At Time Of Call! — They’re Not Quite Formatted Enough To Search Or Sort Reliably — But Here They Are For To Exercise Your Detective Skills! — Like An Easter Egg Hunt For Grownups!
Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar will soon be spending pretty much all his time working out with his new Club Fed Golf Team buddies and Richelle Huizar probably won’t be joining him even though arranging for her election to the seat he’s termed out of was apparently one of the goals of his corrupt conspiracy. See this excellent story from yesterday’s Times for a timeline of her role in the CM’s troubles. And as you can imagine, I’ve been after records involving her for some time now.
But Jose Huizar, credibly accused of ordering staff to alter or destroy material responsive to pending public records requests, has not been very forthcoming. The only remedy the California Public Records Act provides to compel compliance is for a requester to file a lawsuit, and I’ve had to file three against Huizar’s office. Two of these involved emails between him or his staff and Richelle Huizar. This one against the City’s Information Technology Agency is still very much pending, but the City’s about to settle the other one.
And of course we don’t settle these things unless they hand over the goods, which in this case amounted to about 150 pages of emails in PDF format. You can take a look at here on Archive.Org. And it turns out that there’s nothing really incriminating in them but nevertheless these emails illuminate aspects of Richelle Huizar’s role in CD14’s operations that I wasn’t previously aware of. She communicated directly with high level staff about motions, met with constituents, attended executive staff meetings, and so on. The context is hard to understand but it’s clear that Jose Huizar was readying Richelle Huizar to take over the family business.
By the way, I’m not critical of that fact in itself. That is, I don’t have a problem with elected officials hiring their spouses or using them as informal advisors. The other aspect of this material that’s important is that Jose Huizar originally claimed it was exempt from release. As you read it, you’ll see that such a claim is not merely indefensible, it’s also ludicrous. In other words, the real lead here is that Jose Huizar is a liar.
Continue reading Newly Obtained Emails Between Richelle Huizar And Various CD14 Staff Show Jose Huizar Grooming Her To Run The Family Business — She Met With Constituents — Consulted With Chief Of Staff Paul Habib On Motions — Including One Relating To Tenants In Caltrans 710 Houses — Attending Executive Staff Meetings — Et Freaking Cetera — And It All Came Crashing Down About Them — As Castles In The Air Built By Lying Psychopathic Criminal Cheaters Will Do From Time To Time
All over the State of California local agencies are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to deny the public access to records required by the California Public Records Act. I don’t, therefore, have nearly as much material to write about so in response I’m writing about the lack of records instead, and the various ways agencies deny access. Here are some earlier posts on this topic.
It’s well-known among requesters of public records that agencies don’t just violate the law, they don’t just ignore it or misunderstand it or willfully misinterpret it. They also whine about it constantly, they aggressively mischaracterize requesters to create the impression that the requests are the problem rather than the agency’s noncompliance, and so on.
Such behavior is bad enough when governments do it, but at least in the state of California numerous private corporations, if created by the government to carry out government functions, are also subject to the Public Records Act. These entities, mostly business improvement districts and charter schools, are not only subject to the CPRA by law but also due to contracts they sign with their authorizing governments.
It strikes me as especially egregious when such quasi-private entities whine about their CPRA obligations and gaslight requesters because they voluntarily agreed via contract to comply. This is a brief post to highlight a recent example involving the gentrification-enabling Highland Park charter conspiracy known as El Rio Community School. It’s not the most egregious instance I’ve encountered, but it’s straightforward, so a good illustration.
Continue reading Dr. Katie Sobczak Chau — Supreme Commander Of The Gentrifying Charter Conspiracy Known As El Rio Community School — Is Very Unhappy That She Is Required To Comply With The California Public Records Act — And She Seems To Think I’m A Big Meany For Asking For Records — And Maybe I Am A Big Meany But I’m Not The One Who Signed A Contract With LAUSD Agreeing To Comply With The CPRA — And I’d Rather Be A Meany Than A Whiner Who Whines About Having To Live Up To My Own Freely Made Promises — I Mean For The Sake Of Argument Only Of Course — Since I’m Not A Meany — Or At Least Not Because Of My CPRA Requests